By Kim Rahn
Some 170 billion won in supplementary budget will be earmarked to stockpile more vaccines and antiviral agents against the H1N1 flu virus, with the outbreak spreading in a rapid and unpredictable way.
The health authorities confirmed 258 new cases of influenza A, Friday. It was the largest number of cases in a single day, more than double the previous record of 108 recorded only two days ago.
The new confirmation increased the total number of confirmed infections to 2,675, of which 831 are under treatment at home or in hospitals, according to the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs.
"Korea is seeing a community-level transmission of the virus. The number of cases is likely to soar when most schools begin for the second semester next week," a ministry official said.
The authorities predict that the disease is likely to prevail in October and November, and that the number of influenza A patients will rise to between 4.5 and 8 million, with about 130,000-230,000 of them hospitalized.
To fight the situation, the government decided to secure vaccines for 13.3 million doses, covering about 27 percent of the nation's population, at a cost of 108 billion won in supplementary budget.
An additional 62 billion won will be spent to secure antiviral agents for 2.5 million doses. South Korea has already secured 5.3 million doses of the agents, such as Tamiflu.
Vaccination will start in November.
For vaccines to be produced by the local pharmaceutical company Green Cross, the authorities will facilitate a prompt process for safety testing and approval, so that the products can be administered starting in November, about two months earlier than the government's original plan.
Schools will be required to strengthen the monitoring of students with fever. Headmasters will be allowed to close schools when a flu case is confirmed at their schools, or force students with influenza A symptoms to take leave.